Graham Mason, Head of Media, Communications & Government Relations, Optus Stadium

It was billed as not only a historic day for the AFLW, but also gave West Australians the opportunity to show their support for the thousands of Australians that have been affected by this summer’s devastating bushfires.

The inaugural AFLW Western Derby between the West Coast Eagles – in their debut AFLW season – and the Fremantle Dockers was a massive day for women’s sport in Western Australia with more than 35,000 fans in attendance. OptusStadium - Derby_30.jpg

While it didn’t beat the previous record crowd for an AFLW game in Perth – also at Optus Stadium – the AFLW was delighted with the response.  And the crowd seemed equally delighted with what they saw.

It was a massive undertaking to have Optus Stadium ready for football after the cricket season.  That included the removal of the cricket wickets – fast becoming a trouble-free, seamless task – and the installation of the big internal Optus sign above the seating bowl on the Southern side.

On the field, the Dockers experience in having played an extra season of AFLW counted and they ran out comfortable winners by 45 points.

Dockers star Kiara Bowers won the inaugural unnamed best on ground medal for her performance which included 18 tackles, 19 if you include the tackle accumulated for stopping a vegan activist protestor running on the field.

For Dockers fans, it was their first win over their arch rivals Eagles in any form since 2015.  That’s 1,721 days.  The Dockers men will be hoping it’s a sign of things to come in 2020.

There was a great atmosphere in the Stadium with lots of families in attendance.  When both teams ran out through the Locker Room race for the first time, the noise was the equivalent of anything served up during the regular AFL season.  People just loved the fact that the footy was back.

The Southern Oval was also a focus with the RAC Rescue Helicopter and a Department of Fire & Emergency Services activation, as well as a large number of inflatable activities.

The only downside on the day was a protestor who chose to spoil a memorable sporting and charitable occasion by choosing to push her vegan activism by running on the field.

For many West Australians it was a first time to see an AFLW match and whet all our appetites for the AFL season ahead which begins on Sunday March 22 when the West Coast Eagles battle Melbourne.